Last Friday, at White Oak Music Hall, I had the opportunity to see Death Grips and Ministry perform. Prior to the show I had never really listened to Ministry. The few songs I heard had the same industrial/EBM feel that Death Grips is known for in their production. I assumed that there would be some overlap in the two fanbases. I was wrong. Upon arrival to the White Oak, there was a distinct age gap between Death Grips fans and Ministry fans. Very rarely did I find anyone who looked like they were born before 1995 in the front for Death Grips and vice versa for Ministry. If there was any overlap it was with the younger crowd that, like me, enjoyed a couple songs they had probably heard on the way to the venue.
As for the shows themselves, Death Grips did not disappoint. As expected the group walked onto the unlit stage, put down their equipment and after a short electronic preamble, opened with a “Lock Your Doors”, a track off their 2012 album No Love Deep Web. From the moment they started, chaos erupted. The crowd became a wave of bodies thrashing to the beat of Zach Hill’s inhumanly fast drumming. The air become became ten degrees hotter. The lasers on each of the band members’ hands became blurry, disorienting beams of green light. The band made no acknowledgement of the audience, each of them trapped in their own unique sonic fugue states. Andy Morin, the group’s producer/engineer/DJ, would jerk and whip his head rapidly as he manipulated the intense textures played through the speakers. Ride would shake and twist like a wet dog, all while barking into the microphone. This was probably one of his strongest live performances. He landed every scream, screech, and yell in every song with no backing track, all while remaining in constant motion. Each song launched right into the next with only a short dirty electronic interlude to give the audience time to breathe.
The set list felt concise in that it contained the best Death Grips song from each album, with the exception of their self-titled EP. I may have heard a bit of Interview but it could’ve been something else. What excited me the most was the inclusion of “Up My Sleeves”, “Say Hey Kid”, and “Have a Sad Cum” off the first disc from The Powers That B. When their set ended it felt like their performance had felt so brief but also so immense. I felt like I had been baptized in the sweat of the hundreds of other young people in attendance. I feel like I would be doing myself a disservice by missing them on their next tour.
Ministry, however, was a bit different. Their stage set up was more ornate with lead singer Al Jourgensen’s mic stand decorated with demon skulls and vines snaking around the shaft. On both wings of the stage were giant inflatable chickens with not-so-subtle toupees and X’d out swastikas on the belly. The projector screen behind them played warped images and footage meant to evoke dissatisfaction with the status quo. By the time Ministry took the stage, almost all the Death Grips fans cleared out.
The band opened with their song “Punch in the Face” which definitely set a strong groove for the rest of the show. Sonically, the band was on point. Each member got their chance to flex their technical muscles on stage. As a frontman, Jourgensen was more playful than his co-headliner. His very flamboyant onstage persona reminded me of Lil Uzi Vert weirdly enough. The crowd for Ministry was also better behaved, in the sense that it was more organized chaos. Because of the more experienced, metal-oriented audience, there was a designated mosh pit in the center of the house. The Death Grips crowd, however, was made up of kids with minimal exposure to the metal scene, which made it a bit more chaotic. The air was easier to breathe in the Ministry pit than it was in the Death Grips pit, but you were more likely to get bruised up. It was also interesting to throw down with people old enough to be my parents.
One of the highlights of Ministry’s show was their performance of an unreleased song called “Antifa”. Personally, I take no issue with a band using their platform to speak on topics they care about, especially when they’re topics that I care about. Message aside, I didn’t really enjoy that song as much as I should’ve. The chanting of “we are not your snowflakes” and “resist” felt too on the nose and very cliched. In the current political climate, broad, unambiguous anti-Trump anthems feel forced. Yes, Trump is an awful human being worshiped by other awful human beings and it needs to be addressed. If the band wanted to rile me up about America’s descent into fascism, I wanna have something more to chew on. I wanna hear about how this man is ruining our country. The mere mention of the rhetoric of him and his constituents use, doesn’t really have an effect on anyone anymore. Plus, the Black Bloc members waving the anarcho-communist flag was a little over the top. The rest of the show was pretty strong. They came for an encore and played a cover of “Gates of Steel” by DEVO. Their DJ even did a short set while performing magic tricks.
I had a good time with both acts, but I would’ve loved to have seen them separately. Maybe it’s just bias, but Death Grips kind of blew Ministry out of the water, with less crowd interaction and less stage design. Overall, seeing Death Grips and Ministry together was a positive experience.